When the calendar turns to November, the good ole coaching carousel begins to turn and programs and coaches begin eyeing the green grass on the other side of the fence. When programs like Michigan, Florida & Wisconsin have vacancies at the head coaching position, the carousel turns a little faster and more coaches end up on board. Fifteen FBS programs will begin the 2015 with brand new head coaches and nine of those have no head coaching experience at the college level. Here is my list of new coach hires from what I feel is the worst hire of the bunch to the best hire of the off season:
15. David Beaty – Kansas Jayhawks – I’ll give the Jayhawks one thing, they always make news when they hire a head coach. Whether it was Turner Gill from Buffalo or Charlie Weis from the buffet line, they always have a way to turn heads in Lawrence. David Beaty has no head coaching experience but was co-offensive coordinator at Kansas back in 2011. He was the wide receivers coach at Texas A&M as well as the recruiting coordinator and last time I checked, the Aggies have recruited pretty well. But it all comes down to getting it done on the field so we’ll see how the transition from position coach to head coach goes at Kansas.
14. John Bonamego – Central Michigan Chippewas – The one positive thing that Bonamego has going for him is that he played at Central Michigan. After that, there are more cons to this hire than there are pros. He’s never
been a head coach at any level, he’s never been an offensive or defensive coordinator and the last time he was at the college level was in the early 90’s. Then you toss in the fact that the Chippewas have been mired in mediocrity for the last five years, you realize that it will be a major uphill battle.
13. Tony Sanchez – UNLV Rebels – The only reason that Sanchez didn’t make the worst hire on the list, since he is moving from the high school to college level, is because Bishop Gorman High School out of Las Vegas won six straight state championships. I don’t care who you are or at what level, that’s impressive. To his credit he’s from the area so that will help in recruiting somewhat but going from high school to the FBS might be too long of a jump.
12. Lance Liepold – Buffalo Bulls – The 2015 season will be Leipold’s sixth season at the FBS level in his entire career, and his career has been a good one. Wisconsin-Whitewater has been a Division III power house for the last seven years including six national championships. It was only a matter of time before a program at the FBS level gave him a shot but Buffalo is a tough place to attract recruits & to win ball games. Rumor was that former head
coach Turner Gill had to carry notarized proof of their division one status to recruits on the recruiting trail.
11. Philip Montgomery – Tulsa Golden Hurricanes – Another first time head coach but this time it’s one that just may have what it takes to turn the Golden Hurricanes around. Philip Montgomery has been the offensive coordinator for the Baylor Bears for the past two years and was co-offensive coordinator for the six years before that. Tulsa is a program that had the ball rolling there for a few years but have fallen on hard times. He’s from Texas so regionally he will be at home in Oklahoma and will be able to recruit the lone star state, which always helps.
10. Neal Brown – Troy Trojans – Brown has been an assistant in Troy before and was hired away from Kentucky where he was the offensive coordinator. The Wildcats offense produced almost 13 points per game higher in the last two seasons under Brown and total yardage per game went up almost 70 yards. Troy only won 17 games since 2011 so let’s see if Brown can hit one out of the park in his first head coaching gig.
9. Tom Herman – Houston Cougars – When the Cougars hired Herman he was still calling plays for the Ohio
State Buckeyes on their National Championship run but he always said and did the right things so there’s that. He inherits a team that won 8 games in 2014 and returns last year’s starting quarterback so it’s not a bad situation for his first head coaching job.
8. Gary Anderson – Oregon State Beavers – A lot of people were shocked when Anderson left Wisconsin so abruptly when the Oregon State job came open but I was not one of those people. Allegedly, Wisconsin Athletic Director and former head coach Barry Alvarez can be a bit much. Either way, Oregon State got a guy who has spent a lot of years out west and who runs an offense that really fits the Pac-12 conference. The Badgers were 20-7 under Anderson but he’s going to have to build the roster a good bit in Corvallis after a 5-7 record in 2014.
7. Jim McElwain – Florida Gators – Coach McElwain led Colorado State to their first 10-win season since 2002 primarily on solid quarterback play & a solid running game. The Gators need a kick start on that side of the ball and that’s exactly why they chose McElwain who ran the Alabama offense from 2008 through 2011. He will really need to hit the recruiting trail hard to beef up the roster on the offensive side of the ball especially on the offensive line.
6. Mike Bobo – Colorado State Rams – Before this past season, Mike Bobo hadn’t even interviewed for any head coaching vacancies even though his name was always on everyone’s ‘watch list’. After two decades in Athens as a coach and a player, Coach Bobo has inherited a team that lost its top three playmakers on offense but return eight starters on defense. In my opinion, Mike Bobo has been one of the most underappreciated coordinators in college football for years. The Rams are in good hands.
5. Mike Riley – Nebraska Cornhuskers – This hire came out of nowhere and shocked a lot of people around the country. Nebraska hired a guy whose Oregon State team constantly under achieved, so why reach out for him? Mike Riley had been with the Beavers for 13 seasons and had barely finished over .500. The answer is that Riley is a nice guy, a good coach and sprung at the chance to go to a school where the program is the only show in town. That would be a stark contrast to the Oregon program just up the road from Corvallis. This one is a win for both parties.
4. Paul Chryst – Wisconsin Badgers – Coach Chryst inherited a disaster at Pittsburgh. The end of the Wannestedt era, the Mike Haywood hiring & firing, the one year of Todd Graham and then finally Chryst. For him to have led the Panthers to a 20-19 record in three seasons was actually a really good job. Paul Chryst left Wisconsin to take the head job at Pittsburgh so I’m sure he will pick right back up where he left off in Madison. This is an
excellent fit for Chryst and for the Badgers.
3. Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh Panthers – It was only a matter of time before Coach Narduzzi left the Spartans for a head coaching job and I don’t know if there is a better fit for the city of Pittsburgh than Pat Narduzzi. His defenses at Michigan State were big, physical & nasty, three characteristics that the Steel City can get behind. Coach Narduzzi was in East Lansing for seven years and his defenses finished in the top eight in each of the last four seasons. Pittsburgh hit a home run with this hire.
2. Chad Morris – SMU Mustangs – The Clemson Tigers had to have felt like they were Cinderella cheating midnight every time a new season rolled around with Chad Morris running the offense. The Tigers’ offense has been one of the most innovative in the country for the past few years and the architect was Morris. The Mustangs only won one game last season and that was against 2-10 Connecticut. I expect Coach Morris to instantly make this program better especially given the fact that SMU returns 16 starters including 9 on offense & he’s from the Dallas area. Who knows, they may even dust off the old ‘Pony Express’ nickname in 2015.
1. Jim Harbaugh – Michigan Wolverines – Was there ever any doubt? I can’t remember a coach & a job fitting so well together. He played quarterback at the University of Michigan, he played 13 seasons in the NFL, he led Stanford to an Orange Bowl, he led the San Francisco 49er’s to the Super Bowl and he takes himself way too seriously. Can you name a better fit for Michigan that this dude? He’s a younger, more qualified version of former Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr. It appears that the brass in Ann Arbor have gotten out of Jim’s way (I personally don’t think they had a choice given his personality) and that will prove more vital to the program’s success than who the coach is. Although having a good coach always helps.
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